If you celebrate Christmas and try, as I do, to be mindful of Advent as well, you will appreciate what I have to say, I hope. But then, few people celebrate Christmas the way I do.
It comes largely from my German grandfather and father, who went over the top each year with decorations in St. Louis, where I grew up. In addition to Midnight Mass, and choir practice, and altar boy duties, and family parties that went on for three nights in a row, there were lights and trees (two wired together to make the fullest possible one) and gifts and cards. And music, popular and secular. My dad insisted that the tree stay up until late January.
I could not, and still cannot, get enough of all this, even though the warmth of Florida winters can present a challenge. Even the shopping for gifts for me is a pleasant reminder not only of my childhood but of the people I know. It's all about giving.
I get in touch through mail, phone or e-mail, with people I seldom see, except at holiday time. My wife and I entertain friends and light candles and play music and decorate indoors and out in a way that surprises many who visit us.
It's all done in a spirit of celebration, and it has to be a bit overdone since it comes from love. It is, of course, the birthday of the Prince of Love and Peace. And even the Santa-reindeer stuff is part of the great party the world is having.
So I am not a dualist who believes in dividing reality into separate, warring camps, such as secular vs. Christian: it is all one. Just as God is in and part of everything. I am tired of hearing about the over-commercialization of Christmas; it has always been commercialized, but for me most of this buying and selling is a necessary part of the celebration. After all, the Incarnation means that, in becoming man, God sanctifies all life, so all creation should sing and spend and give.
I love the lights, the bells and carols, I enjoy the packages and parties and decorated trees, and I don't want to hear the celebration to end: from early December to early January (the 6th preferably), the season is on. For the believer who practices a life of mindfulness and prayer, Christ is never forgotten in this great display, it seems to me, since he is the center of life itself. The lonely and needy are certainly not forgotten, either; how could they be?
In that spirit, I wish my readers happiness in the new year and Joy at Christmas! I thank those who make comments and return to read more of my reflections.